Suffolk coronavirus vaccine concerns – your questions answered

A member of the medical team administers a Covid-19 vaccine injection at the NHS vaccination centre

Suffolk has seen a few teething issues during the coronavirus vaccine rollout, but the system remains on track - Credit: Leon Neal/PA

Suffolk has seen a mostly smooth rollout of the coronavirus vaccine – although it hasn't been immune from teething issues. Here are some of your concerns answered.

The concerns come after a number of over 80s voiced their frustration over not being contacted for an appointment, while other issues have included doses with a shorter than expected shelf-life being delivered to vaccination hubs.

Health bosses have stressed, however, that the problems remain only teething issues, with the country undergoing an operation on an incredible scale.

I'm over 80 and have not yet received my invitation – why are some over 70s receiving one before me?

The priority, both nationally and locally here in Suffolk, is to ensure all over 80s and care home residents receive their vaccinations first.

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Some over 70s – primarily people aged over 75, have been vaccinated, despite the over 80s rollout not being complete.

This is understood to have been the case for a very small number of people however, and only occurred after vaccination centres had finished their appointments for over 80s that day – and needed to get patients in at short notice to ensure the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was not wasted. This follows Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidelines.

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When will care home residents and the over 80s have all been vaccinated?

Both the local primary care network centres and those run by Suffolk GP Federation are confident they will meet all government-issued target dates. For care home residents, this is Sunday – while all over 80s should be vaccinated by the end of the month.

I'm in the over 70s category. When can I expect to be invited to an appointment?

It is understood vaccination centres will begin sending out invitations once they have completed giving vaccines out to the over 80s. As mentioned previously however, some appointment slots which had not been booked have gone to over 70s to ensure the vaccines are not wasted.

Will the booking website withstand the huge demand for appointments as things ramp up?

The Suffolk GP Federation had more than 2,000 people viewing its website at one time on Monday morning – and invites were also temporarily paused to give the booking telephone line time to catch up. It is understood there are no issues with the website and demand on Monday was due to a roll-out of invites for this week's appointments.

I don't have internet access – how can I book my appointment?

Those eligible for the vaccine will be contacted by the NHS via text message or by post, should they not have a mobile phone.

A unique code will be provided alongside a website link, with healthcare bosses encouraging people to book online where possible. Those without internet access however can call a booking line number provided to book their vaccine using the unique booking code.

Have any doses been wasted?

No. Despite vaccines having been delivered to the Suffolk GP Federation with a shorter than expected lifespan, no doses have been thrown away.

Why have older people been forced to queue outside in the cold for long periods of time?

While social distancing measures mean some people will have to queue outside at times, instances of long queues – primarily in Haverhill – came due to the vaccine lifespan issue over the weekend. A high proportion of people were called in at short notice to ensure the vaccines were not wasted when they expired, creating queues.

When will the Gainsborough Sports Centre site open in Ipswich?

The site is ready and has been for some time, however is awaiting the go-ahead from the national NHS to enter operations. It will be one of 15 mass vaccination hubs opening in Suffolk and north Essex.

When will everyone in Suffolk have been vaccinated?

Again, healthcare bosses remain confident that they will be able to meet all national government targets as the rollout continues, should supplies be available. Cabinet minister Dominic Raab said every adult in England will have been offered their first dose by September.

The latest available figure shows 30% of those eligible had been vaccinated in Suffolk before the weekend.

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